Eph. 1:9 (LGV) 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good intent which He planned within Himself 10 for the administration of the fullness of the appointed times, to sum up everything together in the Anointed – what is in the sky and what is on the land — in Him.
Paul explained that the goal of God’s ultimate plan for this creation, which He devised within Himself, was to sum up everything in Jesus Christ His Son. He then described this entire collective as one individual, “one new Man.”
Eph. 2:14-16 (LGV) 14 For He is our peace, the one who made both one and demolished the wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the obstacle — the law of commandments in ordinances — that with the two He might create in Himself one new man, making peace, 16 and might reconcile both to God in one Body by the cross, thereby having removed the obstacle.
In Romans six, Paul described how individuals are added to God’s collective Son, through water baptism. We were joined to Jesus in death with the promise of being joined to Him in resurrection of our individual bodies when the collective body is resurrected at Jesus’ return.
Romans 6:1-8 (ESV) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Our baptism in water externally symbolizes what simultaneously occurs internally through God’s Spirit/Breath, death to self. In the verses which immediately follow he applied this personal “death” to the desires of the flesh, and acknowledged that it requires a continual struggle and putting to death of the flesh after baptism.
In the twelfth chapter, Paul then applied this “death to self” concept, which originates in our baptism, to how we relate to Jesus Christ and to one another within the local church, the “Body of Christ.”
Romans 12:1-5 (ESV) 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
In this passage Paul’s emphasis concerned the godly mindset which each member of the local church must maintain. Our individualism (our own will which naturally has a “me first” bent and is consistent with the thinking of this fallen world) must be continually sacrificed on the altar. We must be “transformed” by “the renewal” of our minds which is the good and perfect will of God. This transformation in mindset means significantly lowering our estimation of our own self-importance as individuals. Instead, it requires viewing ourselves as one “member” of a collective “Body of Christ,” in which everything we do and say fits seamlessly into the goals of the Head (Christ) and fits harmoniously with the movement of the entire Body in achieving Christ’s goals within our local community. Paul repeated this theme to the Corinthians, connecting our baptism with the “one Body” concept and these goals.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 24b-27 (ESV) 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. … 24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul continued the theme of uniting the many individuals into one, of Jew and Gentile becoming one in Christ. In the fourth chapter, Paul emphasized the basis for this unity, the oneness of God.
Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16 (LGV) 1 Therefore, I the prisoner in the Master, plead with you to walk worthy of the invitation with which you were called 2 with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to preserve the unity of the Breath in the bond of peace: 4 a common Body and a common Breath, just as you were [originally] called in a common Hope of your calling, 5 a common Master, a common Faith, a common immersion, 6 a common God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. … 11 And He indeed gave the emissaries, also the prophets, also the evangelists, also the shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints for the performance of service, for building the Body of the Anointed, 13 until we might all attain to the unity of the Faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of maturity of the fullness of the Anointed; 14 so that we may no longer remain children, tossed about and carried off with every wind of teaching by the slight of men through cunning craftiness into the deception of heresy. 15 But, speaking truth in love, [we] may grow toward Him in every way who is the head — the Anointed, 16 from whom the whole Body being assembled and assimilated together through the contribution of every joint according to the proportion of efficiency of each part, growth of the Body is self-perpetuating to the building of itself in love.
It is not difficult to see from all of these passages that the uniting of many individuals into one – the Son of God – was one of the most important themes in Paul’s letters. He considered revealing this “mystery of Christ,” which had been hidden throughout the entire Old Testament, to be his unique mission.
Ephesians 1:9-10 (ESV) 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 3:1-6 (ESV) 1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
The ”mystery of Christ” consists not only of who the Son of God is in relation to His Father, but also “the Body of Christ” which consists of many individuals, both Jew and Gentile, made one with the Son of God, and thus being united to the one true God as God’s collective begotten Son.
1 Timothy 3:14-16 (ESV) 14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
In Part 3 we will dig deeper into Paul’s concept of the “body of Christ,” and compare his language with John’s. In Part 4 we will look at how this relates to specific passages in John which are incorrectly translated and misunderstood.